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We exchanged a few words lazily. Afterwards there was silence on board the yacht. For some reason or other we did not begin that game of dominoes. We felt meditative, and fit for nothing but placid staring. (1.4)
Even early in the book, the breakdown of language begins. The men are too lazy even to speak.
"He shook hands, I fancy, murmured vaguely, was satisfied with my French. Bon Voyage." (1.23)
The Dutch head of the Company does not speak English with Marlow and obviously does not try very hard to understand – or confer understanding upon – Marlow. He hears so little of Marlow’s French – a mere well-known phrase – that he cannot possibly judge his French adequately. But it is obvious he does not care about meaningful communication; he sees Marlow as only another opportunity to increase his profits.
"Otherwise there was only an indefinable, faint expression of his lips, something stealthy - a smile - not a smile - I remember it, but I can't explain. It was unconscious, this smile was, though just after he had said something it got intensified for an instant. It came at the end of his speeches like a seal applied on the words to make the meaning of the commonest phrase appear absolutely inscrutable." (1.52)
The manager’s talk is as meaningless as his expressions and only this mysterious (but empty) smile gives his words any semblance of profundity.